A Man Alone is Easy Prey
Clint Eastwood. An iconic man’s man. The kind of man every man would like to be and every woman would like to be with. Well, at least that is what his movie legend would suggest…
However, there is no denying the impact that Clint has had on North American culture through the plethora of movies he’s made, and the strength of characters he created. Dirty Harry, the “Man with No Name” of the Spaghetti Western Trilogy fame, and the wide range of other western gunslingers he played in movies such as Unforgiven, the Outlaw Josie Wales, High Plains Drifter, Hang ‘Em High, and many more, were all strong, independent, courageous, tough, never-give-up kinds of men.
These are the kind of character qualities we often associate with leaders.
In the movie Pale Rider Clint plays a preacher/gunslinger who saves a California gold-rush community from the merciless mining tycoon “Lahood”. Following an incident where a member of the community went into town alone and was killed by Lahood’s hired guns, Clint says something that is critically important for leaders to understand:
“A man alone is easy prey. Only by standing together are you going to be able to beat the Lahood’s of this world.”
“A man alone is easy prey.” Anyone alone in leadership is easy prey.
As you know very well, leadership is difficult, demanding, and dangerous. It can suck the life out of you. It can kill you. It often feels in leadership there’s a target painted on your back – a target for criticism, condemnation and many other slings and arrows fired at you. Leaders are constantly fighting fear, insecurity, discouragement, despair, diminishment, anxiety, stress, pressure, and loneliness.
Yes, loneliness. The loneliness that comes with the thought that no one else really knows what you’re going through. Who can you trust? Who can you talk to about the issues that bombard you on a constant basis? Who can help you make the decisions you need to make?
In light of all of this, leaders can find themselves feeling all alone. Being alone. And that’s a very dangerous place to be.
A man alone is easy prey. A woman alone is easy prey.
Prey to what though?
Fear, hopelessness, discouragement, anxiety, despair, stress, loneliness, foolishness – and all the vices we can turn to in order to dull the pain. All of this can cause leaders to not just be ineffective, but to significantly fail by making poor decisions both professionally and personally. When leaders walk alone everyone suffers.
The key to overcoming all that which can prey upon leaders is to lead and live in ‘community’. What I mean by that is to first of all recognize how dangerous it is for us to walk alone, and in light of this to ensure we make the choice to gather around ourselves trusted relationships to whom we entrust our struggles and strains.
We must ‘cultivate’ community. Community doesn’t just happen; we need to make it happen. We must choose to cultivate relationships we can entrust ourselves to.
Needing other people is not a sign of weakness – it’s the reality of life. Only a foolish person tries to go it alone. They will ultimately fall prey to the stresses and strains of life. Keep in mind, the only thing that stops leaders from leading and living in community is really pride. That’s why humility is such a critical character quality for great leaders. A humble leader recognizes he/she doesn’t have all the answers and needs the input of others to be the best leader possible.
So, to take a lesson from Clint Eastwood, it’s imperative for leaders to realize that “a man alone is easy prey” and, therefore, choose to create a community of trusted relationships to help us lead and live well. No one needs to fall prey to the stresses and strains of leadership, and life, if we choose to commit to a community of trusted advisors, to be accountable to others.
Through my work with leaders in The Executive Committee I see the profound difference leading from within a community of leaders makes. Don’t go it alone – leaders alone are easy prey.